The 2 Things You Must Have To Bike To Work

Picture of an unusual bike lane marking
Do you really need round tires? Photo by jetalone via Flikr.

In the bike to work community, the debates about equipment rage: what are the best clothes, shoes, pedals, frames, etc. At it’s most basic level, there are only two things you must have to bike to work:

  1. A bike.
  2. A place to go.

Everything else is an accessory.

As with all accessories, there are those that are more useful and valuable than others. Here are some accessories that you might find useful.

Safety Accessories

Safety is paramount, please consider including some of the following items in your toolkit:

  • Lights: It is so important to be seen and many jurisdictions require front and/or rear lights when riding after dark. I ride after sunset with lights, and many riders use lights during the day.
  • Reflective Clothing: Wearing light clothes is not enough…you need reflective strips on your clothes or a high-viz vest if you are riding in low light, and many riders use them during the day.
  • Reflectors: They are commonly mounted on the front and rear of your bike and in the spokes; you can also buy reflective tape to mount anywhere else on your bike.
  • Flags: If you ride a recumbent bike you should have a flag. Some urban riders use flags on regular bikes to make them visible about the cars.
  • Helmet: The debate rages among commuters about the effectiveness of helmets, but I rarely ride without one.
  • Sunglasses: Protects your eyes from the sun…also from bugs and the occasional pebble.
  • Mirror: Plenty of riders use mirrors to see traffic behind them. You can get mirrors that mount on your helmet, your glasses, or your bike.
  • Bells and Horns: Some jurisdictions require bells, which protect pedestrians as well as cyclists; horns, especially air horns, can alert drivers to your presence.
  • Water bottle: You may not think of a water bottle as a safety item, but depending on your commute and your physical needs, it may be important to stay hydrated.

Other Accessories

Here are some other items used by cycle commuters:

  • Cargo rack: Racks attach to the bike frame over either (or both) the front and rear wheels. Racks allow you to put bags, panniers, boxes, bungies, etc. allowing you to carry stuff.
  • Back packs and messenger bags: Allow you to carry stuff.
  • Basket: ditto.
  • Pump and patch kit: allows you to fix a flat during your ride.
  • Gloves: either with or without fingers, gloves protect and cushion your hands.
  • Bike Shorts: Padding for your posterior; good especially for long rides.
  • Wind breaker: Protect you from cold and rain.
  • Bike shoes, cleats, etc.: connect your feet to the crank, making you more efficient.
  • Smile. Come to think of it, this one is not optional.

What piece of equipment are you interested in trying, and why? If you bike to work now, what accessories do you swear by?

2 thoughts on “The 2 Things You Must Have To Bike To Work

  1. I’ve been a regular bike commuter for 8+ yrs. If I’m in the office, I probably got there on my bike. But the biggest pain I’ve found is carrying my stuff: laptop, lunch, “work clothes” (high-heels take up more room in a bag than you would think), etc. One thing I’ve found helpful, is buying a second lock. I leave one at work, and one at home for weekend rides and errands. U locks are expensive, but subtracting 4.5lbs (that’s right, almost 5 lbs) from my bag on every commute is WELL worth it.

    1. I also stopped schlepping a lock to and from work. Since I don’t lock up at home, I keep my lock at work and use it when I need to run a lunchtime errand, or if I have to stop somewhere on the way home.

      By the way, I’ve also generally stopped ferrying a laptop since I got better at managing email and got a smartphone. But that is another story.

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